kindness activist

kindness activist

Friday, July 12, 2019

Signs of Kindness

I am sure you have noticed that there is a lot of “snark” and negativity on social media these days.  It is very easy to get dragged into it.  But then, every once in a while a post pops up that INSPIRES.  The posts that make you SMILE and feel like you have taken a breath of fresh air.  I saw one of those posts recently, and I reached out to the person who wrote it to ask if I could tell her story here.  Luckily for all of us, she agreed.  I think you will be as inspired as I am.

Rayna Pummel, her sister Riley, and her children Jasyn and Luelle decided to DO SOMETHING recently.  They TOOK ACTION at a time when many others just stood aside thinking nothing could be done.  And their action may literally save lives.


The Pummels lost their 16 year old sister, Skylar Dae Plummel, on March 20, 2018 when she completed suicide.  Suicide awareness and prevention is now very important to them.  Wanting to help other families from having to go through what theirs did, and saving other people from making that fatal decision, were reasons enough for Rayna and her family to take action.

Rayna lives in Omaha, Nebraska and a video came out recently about a young girl ready to jump from a pedestrian bridge to end her life.  Rayna told me, “When I saw the video of the young man (Ray’Veontae Harris) saving this girl in my own hometown I just felt urged and inspired to do something to possibly help prevent it for someone else.”

So, Rayna and Riley looked up some suicide prevention quotes, chose the ones that spoke to them, and made signs to hang around town.  Some signs listed the Suicide Hotline number (800-273-8255) for people needing someone to talk to to call.  They tied and taped the signs on streets signs, the pedestrian bridge where the girl had been planning to jump, and on the other side of the bridge (which is in Iowa).   

Here is how Rayna explained it in the Facebook post I saw: “Yesterday evening a girl tried to jump off the pedestrian bridge in downtown Omaha to complete suicide.  Luckily a young man was walking by and saw her and while everyone else walked by, he talked her down and got her to sit on a bench and hug him.  This young man saved her life – but what if he had not been there?  So, my sister and I, having lost our youngest sister to suicide a year and some months ago, decide to put some signs around downtown Omaha for support and awareness.  We need more people like this young man, and I hope our signs help someone.”

Rayna – you and your sister ARE like that young man.  You DID reach out and make a difference to strangers.  Who KNOWS how many people will see those signs and be inspired to keep going?  You are making a difference in the world.  “All I could think was if that man was not there to save that girl, she very well could have died.  Sometimes when people are to the point of choosing suicide all they need in that moment is one sign or one smile to change their mind,” Rayna told me. 

She continued, “I hope people felt inspired like I did. I hope the signs were informative and I really hope those signs or someone else can save someone's life one day. I hope those signs or someone else's kindness is what helps them choose to live.  This is definitely something my sisters and I plan on doing again.  We want to put signs up in every part of Omaha for everyone to see. We want to spread awareness and kindness as much as we can, because in this world today we need it.”  I couldn’t agree more!  I hope that your story also inspires other people to make and hang signs in their own communities. 

This piece is dedicated Rayna’s little sister Skylar, whose favorite saying was, “Be your own kind of Beautiful”. Skylar is forever loved and never forgotten. 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline.  They can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.  You can also reach them online at:  Suicide Prevention Website

You can see the news story about the incident, including an interview with the man who talked the woman back to safety on the pedestrian bridge, here:  WOWTV News Story

#SuicideAwareness  #SpreadingAwareness  #EraseTheStigma 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Wheelchair Kindness

I wrote recently about how KINDNESS helps the giver as well as the receiver. How, “when you help others, you can’t help helping yourself”.  I was thinking about it from the GIVER’S perspective – how when I go out of my way to do something kind, I feel that I somehow get a boost from it, too. 

But last week I got to experience it from the receiver’s end, and it was lovely.

I am currently in Florida, and my sisters flew in to visit us here.  I like to make funny signs to hold up at the airport and greet them when they come, so this time I made this sign:
Waiting for my sisters to arrive - photo taken by a stranger
(One sister has glioblastoma (GBM)  – a brain tumor, that was found 11 months ago after she visited us in Florida, and the other sister has a strange laughing disorder where if she laughs too hard, she passes out!  So that is what the sign referenced.)

Anyway, we were running late to get to the airport, so my partner dropped me off to run in while he parked the car.  As I was standing in the airport, several people noticed my sign.  One was a sweet older woman who asked if I would like her to take my photo with the sign.  “Sure!” I said, and she did.  I explained what it meant, and that my 2 sisters should be arriving soon.  “Would you like me to photograph them as they walk up to you??” she asked.  “Great!!” I replied.

This is something that I often do – take photos of strangers for them.  So, to have someone offer to do it for me was so nice!!

As we waited, we chatted.  She asked about my sister with GBM.  She said that she was very sorry she hadn’t thought to bring her scooter, a mobility device.  She thought my sister would have liked to have it for the visit (the idea of my sister riding around on a senior citizen’s electric scooter made me giggle inside).  Then the woman thought of another idea; she had a WHEELCHAIR at home!  She would like to give us that for while my sisters were in town!!

Now, sometimes my sister does bring a wheelchair with her on trips.  She gets tired much quicker than she used to – chemo, radiation, and a brain tumor will do that to a person.  And she walks a bit slower than she used to, too.  But we had talked before the trip and decided that her wheelchair wouldn’t really be necessary in Florida.  It wouldn’t work on the beach – pushing a chair over sand would not work.  And we probably wouldn’t visit anywhere else that a wheelchair would be necessary, and if we DID (maybe a mall), they would have one we could borrow.  So, we had consciously decided NOT to bring a wheelchair.

But this woman was SO SWEET, so KIND. To not accept her offer of a wheelchair seemed rude.  So, I talked with her about where we might pick up the chair.  Then the topic of when and how to return it came up, and she explained it was not a loan, it was a GIFT.

You see, the chair had been her late husband’s.  He died several years ago, and she had held onto his wheelchair.  This was a perfect use for it, she said, and her eyes looked so happy to have happened upon us and found such an excellent use for the chair.

So, we accepted it.  We met her stepson in a parking lot near their home and transferred the chair into our hatchback car.  It took quite a lot of wiggling luggage and people around to make it fit, but we got it in there!!  And we brought it home with us.

The gift from a stranger - a wheelchair.  So kind.
It is an old chair – the rubber around the wheels peeled off (years in the Florida sun, heat, and salt will do that).  But it was a very generous gift.  And in accepting it, I think we helped her close a chapter of her life.  The chair had found a home.  After years of storage, it would now help someone else. 

I like to think that woman’s heart is a little lighter now.  Thank you for the wheelchair, ma’am.  We are honored to accept it.

Sisters on the beach

Monday, July 1, 2019

$416.59 Given Away So Far - How It Was Used!!

Oh.  My.  Goodness!!  More of the proceeds from the Kindness Yard Sale have been given out, and it is SO FUN!  It is both inspiring and educational to decide where to use the money and to see it go out into the world. 

As a reminder, a total of $1552.76 was collected at the sale.  (I think that number is a bit larger than last time I wrote, because another donation came in 😊 ).  Of that, so far I have given out $416.59 – over $400!!  This is the 3rd accounting report.  Here are the most recent ways the money was used:

·         $6 was given out to GOOD DRIVERS in Arlington, Virginia!  Our house (which we affectionately call “The Big Yellow House”) is right on a very busy corner at a stop light.  At the stoplight, drivers are supposed to stop right behind our driveway.  They should know this because there is a big line painted on the road, and a SIGN telling them.  The reason they need to stop so far from the red light is because city BUSES have to make left turns on our corner, and if cars pull all the way to the light, the buses cannot make the turn.  And yet, despite the signage and the line, MANY drivers pull all the way up to the light…  This is so frustrating for bus drivers who are trying to do their job and get their riders where they are going on time!  So, I made 6 envelopes for good drivers who followed the rules, each with a $1 bill inside.  Then I stood at the line by the sign and handed them out to cars that stopped in the right place!  It was funny to see people’s expressions when I congratulated them on following the rules of the road.  One recipient said, “Well, I stop here because it is the LAW!”.  Yea buddy, I wish everyone followed your lead. 

     ·         $3.85 was used to pay for a stranger’s boba tea 😊.  I was having one (paid for with my 
            money of course, not sale proceeds) and it was fun for the person behind me, too.

     ·                $25 was left in an envelope at our hair salon for our stylist’s next client to help pay for 
                their  hair cut.   Our stylist, Gilbert, was excited to be included in the giving and promised 
                to make sure the person after us received it.

·              $20 was put in an envelope for someone pumping gas.  This was an interesting one…              First, I taped the envelope to the handle of a gas pump because I thought that would make        it obvious and whoever came next would see it and be curious enough to open the 
          envelope.  Only, it turned out that people didn’t READ the envelope, they just saw a note 
          on a pump and assumed it meant the pump was closed.  So, I moved the envelope to the 
          windshield of someone who had gone in to pay and get snacks.  We waited and secretly 
          watched until they came out.  They SAW the envelope, took it off, and (without opening it) 
          threw it on their dashboard.  Oops!!  At first I was a little disappointed, but it was a good 
          lesson for me:  once the money is given, it belongs to the person who found it.  What they 
          do with it (even if that is never open the envelope to find it) it up to THEM.  I have no 
          control over that.  

·          An older gentleman often walks in front of our house wearing a bright yellow safety vest.  I  
        have wondered where he was coming from, and on a walk recently I found the answer 
        – HE SWEEPS THE SIDEWALKS on Columbia Pike!!  He gladly accepted a $5 tip for 
        keeping the space clean.

·          $50 was given to the Arlington Free Clinic so that a patient could have their first dental exam
        for free.  I had often passed the Clinic since it is near my bank, but had never gone in.  It is 
        really NICE!!  The staff were so friendly, too!  I got a tour of the facility and an explanation 
        of how it works.  Medical care is free, as are most meds.  But patients have to pay $50 for 
        their first dental exam (thereafter treatment is free).  So now one lucky person will get clean 
        teeth for free!  The staff were very appreciative of the neighborhood donating there.

 ·         We had a fun time using $25 of the proceeds to pay for PARKING FEES for people leaving the garage at the Arlington Hospital.  Boy were they surprised when someone whipped out $5 bills to pay for them!  I would like to do that again sometime.  I hate that we have to pay for going to the hospital (or the doctor if your doctor’s office is in that building).  So if we can help ease that burden off of someone I am all for it!

        ·         I want to use some of the funds to pay for a patient’s prescription, but I haven’t been able to 
              do that yet.  I have tried 3 times but there is never anyone with anything to pick up!  
              However, there was an older couple filling out forms to get inoculations, and I got to pay for 
              those!  The woman gave me a big thank you and hug – that was the best $8 spent that day                      for sure.

         ·         $26.75 was used to pay for groceries of someone checking out at Safeway on Rt. 50.  The 
                shopper was very surprised, and promised to pay it forward and do something good for 
                someone else.  

  ·         While road tripping from Virginia to Florida, we pulled over to get gas.  I used $20 to buy 
         10 Powerball tickets which we then gave to people – the man cleaning a fast food 
         restaurant, a checker and the man working at the fish counter at a grocery store, and a few 
         more people.  Everyone was very excited to receive a gift from a stranger that might be 
         worth $120M!!  I put the last lottery ticket (in an envelope with a note and a Kindness 
         Activist business card) on the windshield of a car in the parking lot.  I was hoping it would 
         not blow away and sure enough it didn’t!  The owner of the car contacted me!  She wrote:  
        “I would love to know how or why you selected my car to put a lottery ticket on.  Was it a 
         one time occasion, random?  My heart needed this act of kindness.  Even if I don’t win…         It was a down day for me yesterday.  Thank you for your act of kindness.”.  Later she 
         showed me an awesome project she is working on – .  She said her 
         motivation is, “To help nonprofits thrive and bring awareness to the community about the 
         nonprofit services available”.   Sounds like kindness to me!

  ·         We pulled over to check out a LOVE sculpture on the same road trip.  Isn’t it cute??  We         hid $20 in an envelope under the letter “O” with a note saying that we love love, and the 
         finder should take their love to lunch.  I wonder if anyone has found that yet…


     ·       I posted a question on the Kindness Activist Facebook page (which you should “like” and 
           “follow” if you don’t already 😊 ) asking:  “Hypothetical question: if someone handed you 
           $50 right now, what would you do with it?  #KindnessActivist  80 people viewed the post.                 13 people “engaged” with it (not sure what that means…).  And only 2 took the time to think 
           about what they would do and reply.  Those 2 were each rewarded with $50!  Rebecca Lahan 
           donated hers to RAICES to help immigrant children on the Mexico/America border, and 
           Samantha Blackby is using hers to buy new back-to-school tennis shoes for a child in 
           Kentucky whose family can’t afford them.  (Story on those gifts here:  Taking Attendance )

·       My sisters and I like to paint rocks and hide them for people to find.  We mostly hide them in parks and in the Cancer Center where Annette is being treated.  While they were painting rocks recently, I painted a big pine cone (my big sister helped put on some dots, too).  I put $10 in an envelope with an envelope saying the finder could use it for ice cream and hung it and the pine cone from a tree in a park (not a pine tree – we wanted it to stand out to passersby).  After I hung it, my sisters told me that a man (presumably homeless) had been peeing in the bushes nearby and saw me doing something in the tree.  At first we all thought, “Oh man – the guy who was peeing in the bushes is going to get the money, that’s yucky…”.  At first the man didn’t look in the tree, but then he turned and saw an out of place pine cone with an envelope…  He stopped and looked, then took the envelope.  He opened it, read the note, and put the note and money in his pocket.  As we watched from a distance, I realized he was the RIGHT person to find it.  He was in the right place at the right time, and he paid attention to the world around him.  I was glad he happened upon it.  So glad, in fact, that I took the pine cone down and we will hang it up again today with a new envelope and $10!!

 That is the current accounting report.  $40 is earmarked (in envelopes) but hasn’t been given away yet, so I will save that for the next entry. 

Thanks again to everyone who donated, shopped, and believed in the Kindness Yard Sale.  And GO OUT AND SPREAD KINDNESS EVERYONE!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Taking Attendance - Are You Present? (And More Kindness Yard Sale Accounting!!)

Remember when the teacher used to take ATTENDANCE?  Count who was THERE for the day?

I think that we (humans in general) are sometimes in ATTENDANCE, but not really PRESENT. 

Know what I mean?  I for one am guilty!  Took a long road trip this week, but how much scenery did I see (vs. how many games of Words With Friends did I play…)?  This is something I have tried to work on in my life the past decade or so – being PRESENT in moments, paying attention, getting involved, interacting, and noticing things.

In that vein, 2 days ago I posted this on a Facebook page I run called “Kindness Activist”:

“Hypothetical question: if someone handed you $50 right now, what would you do with it?   #KindnessActivist

Only, guess what, it was NOT a hypothetical question.  It was real – a genuine query to see what people would do if I gave them $50 of the proceeds from the Kindness Activist Yard Sale.  I have had the pleasure of using some of the money, I wanted to see what others might do with it if they were given the chance to share it.

The results were confounding to me.  80 people viewed the post.  13 people “engaged” with the post (whatever that means).  And only 2 – TWO – took time to ponder what they would do with the $50 and reply.  That astounds me, because it seems so opposite of what my immediate response would be to a prompt like that!  I think if I were asked the same question, I would reply with a dozen things I would like to use $50 for 😊 . 

I thought about WHY people may not have responded.  Ideas I came up with:
  •  Too busy
  •  Uninterested
  •  $50 was not enough money to take a break in their day to consider how they would use it
  • Hypotheticals aren’t their thing
  • Too much effort to think of something
  • They deemed it a stupid post 😊
  • They thought someone else would have a better idea of what to do with the money

But 2 people DID reply.  I considered what that might mean about them:
  •       They had some downtime to think about the question
  •          They like hypotheticals
  •          They suspected it might not be hypothetical
  •          They live their lives as present, engaged, creative, and interactive people

Note:  I am NOT dissing anyone who saw the post and didn’t reply, I just really like the social experiment aspect of it and considering the ins/outs/whys of it all.

I hope the 2 respondents don’t mind if I extrapolate a bit about them here.  

The first to reply was Rebecca Kinder Lahan.  I have known here for many years (she was in our wedding 😊 ).  I know her to be very creative, genuine, caring, and honest.  She is a super fun mother of 3 and is so concerned about the state of education where she lives that she ran for school board and was elected.  Plus, she and her family take a terrific photo with Santa every year.  GO REBECCA!  She said that she would use the $50 to donate to RAICES to help migrant families at the border. 

The other respondent was Samantha Marcum Blackaby.  I have not known Samantha very long – she is the niece of our Florida neighbor.  What I DO know about her is that when her Aunt Carol (our neighbor) died and we went to Kentucky for the funeral, Samantha opened up her home to us as if we were family.  She lives on a farm and she let us throw on some borrowed boots for the mud and took us city-folk on a tour of that farm that I will never forget.  I was in a CHICKEN COOP, people!!  And the next day she cooked us a breakfast like no other – there was food for days, all of it made by her (and her parents) even though they were in the middle of grieving a dear relative.  I also know she is a very supportive mother, in love with her little nephew, has gone through some super tough experiences in her life but keeps smiling, and is an amazing 3rd grade teacher in rural Kentucky.  Samantha said she would use the $50 to buy a pair of tennis shoes for a child she knows for the upcoming school year.

Now for the accounting part of this post:
     Rebecca - $50 of the proceeds from the Kindness Yard Sale have been donated to RAICES in your name
     Samantha - $50 of the proceeds from the Kindness Yard Sale are heading your way to invest in new shoes for your deserving student

And to the rest of us – let’s strive to live like today isn’t hypothetical.  Let’s engage, interact, create – be it in the virtual world or in the real one that surrounds us. 

P.S. – we miiiight have bought some Powerball tickets to hand out…  I mean, hypothetically speaking, there could be a couple of chances for someone, maybe YOU, to turn into a millionaire come Wednesday June 26th….  If you want to be PRESENT for that, comment here.  I mean, SOMEBODY’S gotta win, right? 

P.P.S. – if you would like to follow Rebecca’s lead and donate to RAICES, here is how:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Kindness Yard Sale - Money Raised, NOW WHAT?

Whew, the Kindness Yard Sale is finally almoooost over!  It actually happened a couple of weeks ago (June 8th), but we have still been picking up from it, giving items away to neighbors, and donating left-overs to Goodwill.  I just came back from mailing an astronaut suit that was donated for the sale to be used as dress up clothes by 3 super cute little brothers, and the beautiful bracelet that a friend bought in the pre-sale online auction to her.  Tying up all of the loose ends of the sale.

Which leads up to – WHAT TO DO WITH THE $1552.76 RAISED TO SPEND ON KINDNESS???

I didn’t imagine that it would be so difficult to dream up fun, creative, and meaningful ways to use the funds collected, but it is!!  Here is a tally on what the funds have been used for so far:

·         $20 (and a welcome card) was tucked into a donation of clothes going to a family that just immigrated to the US from Albania.  A kind neighbor is helping them settle in and had come to pick up clothes for them.  $20 is not much when you are starting over in a new country, but I hope it helped them feel WELCOME and at home in America.

·         $6.99 was used to purchase a dozen roses at Trader Joe’s and hand them out to patients at a cancer center.  My sister is undergoing treatment for glioblastoma (brain cancer), so we are often at the center for her scans, bloodwork, and appointments.  While she was in getting an MRI last week, my other sister and I walked around and gave patients roses with encouraging notes attached.  It was touching – I would like to do some more of these visits and handouts.  One woman was sitting with a friend/relative in the radiation waiting room.  She was bald from treatment and had a b-i-g 3 ring binder next to her that said “breast cancer” on the top (and “&*$% cancer” on the spine).  When we handed her a rose, she smiled and teared up.  I really think little actions like that can give a person a boost of energy to get through the day.

 ·         $25 was left tucked in an envelope at the place where we get our haircut.  It was addressed to “Client of Gilbert”, and we asked our fabulous stylist (Gilbert) to give it to whoever he sees next.  This note was included: 

"Dear Client of Gilbert –

SURPRISE!  We want to help you pay for your haircut!!  Here is $25 to put toward your services today.  We love Gilbert and how he does our hair, and you must, too, or you wouldn’t be here!!

Have a great day.

P.S. – Give Gilbert a good tip please!  He deserves it."

 ·         $20 was left in the produce section at Trader Joe’s in an envelope addressed: TO YOU, TRADER JOE’S SHOPPER with this note: 

“Dear Person Buying Produce at Trader Joe’s –

SURPRISE!  We want to help pay for your groceries today!!  Eating healthy can be expensive, and you deserve the best.  So here is $20 to help when you check out.

Have a terrific day!!”.

At first we left it under some containers of mushrooms, but we watched a while and no one spotted it!  We left the store and came back about 2 hours later and STILL no one had found it!  So, we moved it to the English cucumber section, really out in the open.  Then we hid and watched and person after person walked by it and didn’t see it.  Remarkable!  How much must we all walk by in life everyday and MISS??  Finally, a shopper saw it and opened it.  The cool thing was that she was in a wheelchair, so the envelope was at EYE LEVEL for her.  I hope she liked it and used the money when she checked out!

So, $71.99 has been used for Kindness so far , and there is a lot left!  I can’t wait! 

Pssst - if you are in the Arlington, Virginia area and driving down Walter Reed/Fillmore, be sure to stop at the LINE before the corner of 2nd and Fillmore…  Just a little hint, some kindness might come to a few drivers tonight or Friday who actually stop at the line and don’t block the buses trying to make the corner…  😊